Everyday Inventions Hidden In Plain Sight

BY AHMAD GRAVES-EL, Staff Writer

To paraphrase Hip Hop Lyricist Emeritus Krs-One, “African-American History is the world’s history.”

Before I go any further, I must inform the readers, this is not a Black History Month article. This is a mini-history lesson. However, before I move on to the subject at hand, I will acknowledge that a certain segment of citizens in our country chafe at the mere mention of the phrase “Black History Month.” Here is an example of why African-American achievements are hallmarked in the month February:

On February 1, President Donald Trump held a press conference dubbed the “African-American History Month ‘listening session.’” In speaking about several American icons including Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. and Harriet Tubman, (future face of the $20 bill), Trump made an overtly obtuse comment regarding Frederick Douglass. “Frederick Douglass is an example of someone who’s done an amazing job and is being recognized more and more, I notice,” President Trump said.

Yes, Douglass, who courageously escaped from the hellish bowels of slavery, was a pre-eminent scholar, orator, abolitionist, and occasional counselor to Abraham Lincoln, while becoming one of the leading citizens in American history. However, Douglass has been dead for 122 years.

If one didn’t know better, one could reasonably infer, through President Trump’s statement that Douglass was still walking the Earth, “abolitioning.” Uninformed remarks such as these are one reason why there is a Black History Month.

However, this article is not about black history—it is about world history. This article will shed some light on this topic for our readers who have been inconceivably kept in the dark regarding the accomplishments of several “Hidden Figures”; African-American inventors whose brilliant inventions continue to leave a positive and lasting impact on human beings throughout the world.

Millions of people have heard of the term, “The Real McCoy,”—which means the genuine article. Many don’t know that, that phrase came into existence because of an object created by African-American inventor Elijah McCoy.

According to biography.com, McCoy (1843-1929) was the son of runaway slaves from Kentucky, who escaped to Canada, and later became a master mechanic by studying mechanical engineering in Scotland.

In the 1800s, railroads were the major means of transport—whether it was humans or products—across the U.S. The ride was rarely smooth because the engines in the locomotives would heat up rapidly, causing them to make frequent pit stops. While at rest, an engineer would squirt oil on the engine to help it cool off, so the train could continue its journey.

As you can imagine, the intermittent stops kept people and products from getting to their desired destination in a timely fashion, and to many—-time is money.

Understanding this, McCoy invented an automatic lubrication device that was patented in 1872 as an “Improvement in Lubricators for Steam Engines.”

“McCoy’s invention was a small thing,” wrote Aaron E. Klein in his book, The Hidden Contributors: Black Scientists and Inventors in America, “but it speeded up the railroads and faster railroad deliveries spurred the economic growth of a nation.”

After McCoy’s invention, numerous imitators arose with their own version of the lubricator; but none were comparable to the ingenious efficiency of the original. Thus, when people wanted to purchase an automated lubricator, they wanted nothing less than “The Real McCoy.” This term that is still prevalent in the American lexicon today.

McCoy also invented the folding ironing board and the lawn sprinkler.

In 1923, Garret A. Morgan invented something that most of us would agree we couldn’t live without. The three-way traffic light is the brainchild of this African-American inventor.

According to Patricia Carter Sluby, author of “The Inventive Spirit of African-Americans: Patented Ingenuity,” after witnessing a fatal accident between a horse drawn carriage and a car, Morgan visualized that it was a good idea to use illuminated colored lights visible during the day and at night, to control vehicular traffic at intersection…” Hence, the three-way traffic signal was born.

Although there is no way it can completely stop car accidents, there is also no way to count the innumerable lives that have been saved by Morgan’s bright invention.

African-American inventors have left a profound and indelible mark on the lives of billions of people across planet Earth. Unfortunately, there has been a long-standing systematic scheme to keep pertinent facts out of certain history books to purposely keep the masses in the dark.

It is now time to enter the light and become aware that “African-American History is your history.”

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